Richard Z. Santos
Arte Publico Press
This well-crafted suspense tale provides a nice debut for first-time novelist Richard Z. Santos. Trust Me also has a real-life tale of perseverance behind its fiction. Indeed, many writers can identify with Santos’s long struggle to get his first book finished and published. And that may inspire new hope and momentum for their own unfinished projects.
First, to the fiction. What can happen when your political-campaign career, your marriage, and your bank account all hit bottom at the same time, and then a job appears, and you think you’ve just caught a lucky bounce out of the blue? Sure, you’ll have to leave Washington, D.C. — and your wife — behind, move to Santa Fe, New Mexico, with no money, and eat peanut butter sandwiches until your first paycheck appears. Instead of doing familiar labors for yet another losing political campaign, this time you’ll be doing public relations for “a corporate labyrinth” and its new airport scheduled to be built in the desert near Santa Fe.
Oh, and right after you get there, things will turn out to be worse than you’ve expected. You’ll meet people who don’t like you and say you’re not up to the job. And then you’ll wade into competing agendas, shady money games, love turmoil, political intrigues, class conflicts–and the fallout from a suddenly unearthed skeleton. Just another day at the office, right?
Richard Santos’s Trust Me has been inspired by his real-life experience as a political campaign staffer in Washington, D.C., and New Mexico. He now lives in Austin, Texas. He teaches English and is a board member of the National Book Critics Circle, as well as conference director for the Writers’ League of Texas. His fiction, essays, and book reviews have appeared in numerous publications. Nonetheless, it took him some 13 years to get Trust Me from the germ of an idea in 2007 to his first published novel in 2020.
“The novel has gone through countless drafts, starts, false starts, deep revisions, and it has also been put away ‘For good!’ several times,” he said in an interview for Arte Publico. Santos’s MFA committee and a novelist friend, Tim O’Brien, provided feedback for some of its drafts. Santos adds: “I sent it out about 50 times and got tons of encouraging rejections but no takers. At the 50th rejection I decided to shelve the book. But then I saw that Arte Publico had open submissions and I told myself I’d send it out one more time.”
Working faster this time, Santos already has a second novel pending: Every Family is a Conspiracy Theory. Bottom line, it’s about “what happens to society after the rug gets pulled out from under our feet” in the aftermath of a devastating global conspiracy, he says.
Sounds timely, considering what’s currently happening to the world during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.
Other Books to Consider
If you like humor with a heart and a message, check out The Big Finish by Brooke Fossey. I reviewed it in April, 2020, for Lone Star Literary Life: https://www.lonestarliterary.com/content/lone-star-review-big-finish
The tones and the messages are much different in Sutherland Springs: God, Guns, and Hope in a Texas Town. This is an eye-opening, investigative look into the causes, effects, and aftermaths of one of America’s most devastating mass shootings. I reviewed Pulitizer Prize-nominee Joe Holley’s excellent book in a March, 2020, issue of Lone Star Literary Life.
Si Dunn is a novelist, nonfiction author, photojournalist, screenwriter, and book reviewer in Austin, Texas. His books include Dark Signals, Jump, and Erwin’s Law. See also his credits in the Internet Movie Database.